I wrote a very brief response to Time Magazine’s decision to select the Gateses and Bono as Persons of the Year, mentioning only that it sat very well with me. Before I do a lot of digging into the source material on Time’s site, I wanted to jot down a little more about why I find their editorial choice so appropriate.
I have always had an immense respect for the work of the Gates Foundation. Bill and Melinda Gates are acutely aware of their capacity for profound philanthropic impact. They invest a tremendous amount of their time and energy into ensuring the thoughtful allocation of the Foundation’s resources. Their choices aren’t always the most glamorous; they’re the ones – such as malaria, and second-level education – that stand to make the most impact.
Historically, Time’s selection of the Person of the Year seems to reflect both on the influential persons that are selected, and also on the zeitgeist or “spirit of the times” that reflects the most significant theme of the year past. 2005 started with the aftermath of the tsunami. It has progressed through a series of natural disasters that have affected the magnitude of the human tragedy to which I am desensitized. And, importantly, the year was equally characterized by the continuous (potentially record-breaking) outpouring of international aid and support.
In addition to having an immense respect for the work of Bill and Melinda Gates, I am also a U2 fan. Actually, I’m enough of a fan to have attended two concerts from their Vertigo tour this past summer! The first was in Dublin, where Bono praised the Irish people for their generous support of international causes, but urged them to urge their politicians to do more. The second concert was in Oslo, where I saw a first: Bono lost for words, and then tongue-tied, as he thanked the Norwegians for being, in his mind, the world leaders in their forward-thinking social programs and generosity. (“The world needs a thousand Norways… a hundred Norways…”) Now, I’m as cynical as the next person about Stetson hats and grandstanding, but Bono has successfully leveraged his tremendous influence (and the inimitably keen Irish understanding of social capital) to work with his fans, and even world leaders.
So, yes, Time’s choices for Persons of the Year do resonate with me. The three are well deserving for their personal actions and, just as impressively, their leadership. I also believe that the theme of international aid accurately reflects the most important zeitgeist of 2005. On a personal note, it is an honour to work for a company led by one of the world’s greatest philanthropists, and a privilege to be living in a nation of people of such generosity and social conscience.
I’d value your thoughts.